Speaker: Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs, HKS

Offensive and defensive realists disagree over whether great powers should try to maximize their relative power and become a "regional hegemon."  Because there is no world government to protect states from each other and intentions cannot be known with certainty, offensive realists argue that being the strongest is the best way to be secure.  In their view, global hegemony is not possible but regional hegemony is, leading to the conclusion that great powers can maximize security by defeating nearby rivals and becoming a regional hegemon.

Most bids for regional hegemony have been disastrous failures, however, and for reasons that defensive realists have long emphasized. The sole exception is the United States, which succeeded in becoming a regional hegemon because the main obstacles to hegemony were absent in its case. Because the conditions that facilitated U.S. hegemony are less prevalent today, a Chinese attempt to establish hegemony in Asia is likely to fail, and Beijing would be unwise to attempt it.

Everyone is welcome to join us online via Zoom! Please register in advance for this seminar:

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.